Ask yourself, right now, at this exact moment, what problems do you have? Most of the time, you’ll find you don’t have any.
- Brings you into the present moment.
- May help snap you out of negative thought loops.
- May help reduce the intensity of unpleasant emotions
How to do it
- Ask yourself: right now, in this exact, specific moment, what problem do you have?
- That’s it!
You can do this when you feel an unpleasant emotion, or when you are stuck in a negative thought loop. You can also do this at any other time – even random times throughout the day to help bring you back to the present moment.
Why it works
Try it now – right now, at this exact moment, what problem do you have? What answers do you come up with.
Your first instinct will probably be to start listing issues you have in your life – you had that argument with that person the other day, you’re worried about how you’ll pay the bills this month, you’re waiting on some test results from the doctor that might be concerning.
But almost all of the time, these are not actually problems you have right now. The things you come up with are actually problems you may have in the future. But right now, literally right now in this exact very moment, they are not problems.
If you’re waiting for a job interview in some reception, full of nerves, you don’t actually have a problem in that moment (and you might want to use another technique like reframing so you don’t see the job interview itself as a problem). You’re just sat in most likely a warm room in a comfortable seat, maybe you’ve been offered a coffee or some water. Take the job interview out of the equation, and you might see that situation as actually quite pleasant – people in coffee shops all over the world even pay for that very experience!
Say you just had an argument with someone, and it keeps playing on your mind. You’re wondering what they think, you’re playing out movies of future interactions that might happen with that person. You think you have a problem.
However, the problem is not happening now. In the past, when the argument was happening, you might have had a problem. And in the future you may have some problems to deal with as a result of it. But now, in this moment, the argument is not a problem.
A sign post to the present moment
We often suffer from problem inertia. Past events play on our minds, and we worry about potential future events.
This is just the mind trying to help you. When you mull over past problems, it’s your mind trying to make sense of them, and trying to remind you of them so that you can learn from them.
When you worry about the future or play mental movies about conversations and situations that haven’t even happened, it’s your mind playing out simulations, trying to prepare.
Trouble is, this tendency of the mind is a little over active in the modern human. These systems are on overdrive, and they can keep us in our heads, and keep negative thoughts and feelings around when they really should have moved on.
This question is a sign post, pointing to the present moment. To answer the question sincerely, you need to bring your mind into the present moment. And as we’ve discussed, usually, there isn’t a problem.
This doesn’t mean ignore problems
The purpose is not to ignore problems have in the wider sense of your life. You might well want to reflect on that argument, and honestly consider what you could have done or said differently, and what you might want to bring up next time you see them.
But it’s better to do this from a centred state of mind, when you haven’t been hijacked by negative thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, once you get centred in the moment, you might realise that there was nothing you needed to do at all.
For example, the other day I bought something from a shop and put it in my pocket. Not long after, I passed a bin, and I reached into my pocket to throw away a food wrapper I’d put in there earlier. Foolishly, I’d put the thing I bought into the same pocked, and accidentally threw it away.
When I realised this, I started to feel quite annoyed with myself, and repeated a few negative words to myself in my head. Maybe even one or two out loud also.
But then I asked myself, what problem do I have, right now? Yes, I threw away something mere minutes after buying it, and that was rather foolish. But that had already happened. It was done. I couldn’t get the item back, and the shop wasn’t going to give me a free one out of kindness. In this moment, I was just a person, walking down the street on a pleasant, if slightly chilly afternoon. No other thoughts were needed. I had no problem.
This isn’t a magic bullet
This isn’t a magic spell. You’re not Harry Potter, reciting an invocation that will immediately bring you to the present moment and take away your problems instantly.
At least, not at first.
If you’re in the middle of quite a strong emotion, you might resist this question. It might even make you more frustrated. Emotions are signals from the brain, trying to guide us. If the brain has triggered a strong emotion, it thinks something is very important, there’s a message it really wants you to receive. There’s a certain inertia to that – for most people, strong emotions can be a little persistent
But, it is a skill that you get better at with practice. So try it a few times through the day, regardless of your state – positive or negative. Practice letting the question guide you to your current conscious experience.